The following appeared in the July/August issue of WCDR’s Word Weaver
The Writing Fairy® Eat My Dust Column
by Dorothea Helms
I’ve started reading Life of Pi three times over the past year. Each time, I didn’t get past page 50. I did the same with Eat, Pray, Love. These are books that have earned acclaim in the literary world and came highly recommended to me, and yet neither compelled me to keep reading.
Last week, I picked up Eat, Pray, Love again. I stretched out on the sofa on our back deck, felt the rays of the sun caress my ankles, and held up the book against the backdrop of lush green trees with rich blue sky peeking out from between the leaves. And I read … and read .. and read … and LOVED it.
How can I start a book, find it boring, and then start it again months later and have the opposite reaction?
A few years ago, I read a magazine interview article featuring Margaret Atwood. She offered one of the best bits of advice for writers that I have ever across. She said that writers shouldn’t worry about the reader. I was stunned. NOT worry about the reader? Aren’t we encouraged by publishers and editors and agents to do just that? To mould our stories and writing to appeal to the appropriate markets?
She pointed out that writers cannot control the preferences, level of education, background, physical condition, mood, etc. of whoever picks up our books at any given time. She suggested being true to your story and your characters and allowing the book to stand on its own.
Reminds me of the advice that best-selling author Nicholas Boothman gave me when I decided to start The Writing Fairy business. I told him I was concerned that people would think my business was for kids, and that some might assign negative connotations to the word “Fairy.” He said, “Dorothea, the people who get it, get it. The others will find another voice that speaks to them.”
I’m glad Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t agonize over me when she wrote her book. And I imagine Yann Martel isn’t losing sleep over the fact that I haven’t read his novel from cover to cover yet.
The sun is shining and I can hear a slight breeze jostling the leaves on the trees in my backyard. My deck is beckoning. Think I’ll pick up Life of Pi and see what happens.